Monday, July 25, 2011


One of my favorite summertime pleasures is walking barefoot in the dewy grass to harvest fresh herbs for my herbal tea in the morning.  The earth is so fresh and promising when the sun rises.  Tip toeing back into the kitchen, I enjoy the sight of the flowers floating in my cup as I breathe in the lovely fragrance that comes steaming up.  Today's tea was a gentle blend of fresh lemon balm leaves, chamomile, and lavender blossoms.  I recently discovered the awesomeness of Anise Hyssop leaves, but only harvest from that plant once a week because it isn't a very big plant yet and I don't want to wipe it out.  Anise Hyssop has a lovely black licorice taste which I enhance with just a drop of honey.  
I am still really enjoying Karen Solomon's Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It book.  So much so that I took out her other book  Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It from the library.  Today was a double header day in the kitchen as I tackled two recipes from these books for our supper tonight.  After purchasing awesomely huge grass fed beef burgers from the Farmer's Market this weekend, I decided now was a good time to make some homemade ketchup and burger buns.  Avoiding plastic packaging has meant that I've been buying conventional Heinz Ketchup that is bottled in glass in lieu of our usual organic varieties that come in plastic.  This hasn't really felt right to me, and I am getting kind of tired of eating sicky sweet ketchup from poisoned tomatoes.  Let me just say I AM NEVER BUYING KETCHUP AGAIN!  Homemade ketchup is so amazing, I was licking the spoon and dipping each bite of my burger in it (which you would never find me doing with Heinz - oh yeah baby, there are other kinds).  I am really hoping that I score some bulk organic tomatoes this year for canning and preserving because then I can make vats of ketchup to gorge on all winter.
The homemade burger buns were very awesome too.  I've kind of avoided making burgers and hot dogs because most buns come in plastic bags, and I wasn't really satisfied with any of my earlier attempts at making them.  Luckily I made two batches of these suckers so I don't have to worry about those for the rest of the summer.  Now, I have adapted both recipes.  Karen's method for making the buns was kind of odd because she adds the yeast right into the flour without letting it foam in liquid first.  I tried her method for the first batch, and was disappointed to find yeast granules flecked throughout the dough!  They turned out okay anyway, but I tried a second batch the way I usually work with bread dough and was much happier with the the way they rose so have listed my way in the recipe posted here.  For the ketchup I used apple cider vinegar instead of the suggested champagne vinegar, and coconut sugar instead of brown.  I also didn't have any cheesecloth so just threw the spices right into the pot and just fished out the cloves and cinnamon before biggie.
(adapted from Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It by Karen Solomon)

1 organic cinnamon stick
1 organic bay leaf
5 whole organic cloves
5 organic cardamom pods
10 organic black peppercorns
1 28-oz can organic whole tomatoes
1 large organic yellow onion, quartered
2 Tbsp organic sunflower or safflower oil
2 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup organic coconut sugar or 1/4 cup local honey
1/2 cup organic local apple cider vinegar
1 tsp organic Hungarian paprika
freshly ground organic black pepper

Method:  Using a piece of cheesecloth, tie the cinnamon, bay, cloves, cardamom, and peppercorns into a bundle.  Set aside.
Pour the tomatoes and their juice into a food processor or blender (I recommend a blender which I didn't use, but will next time).  Puree until totally smooth, and set aside all but about 1/4 cup.  To the remainder, add the onion and puree.
In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium high heat.  Add the onion puree and the salt and stir well.  Cook for 8 minutes, letting the puree reduce.  Add the tomato, sugar, and vinegar, turn the heat to a low simmer, and reduce for about 15 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.  Add the spice bundle and reduce for 10 minutes more.  When it is done reducing, it should be a little thinner than commercial ketchup.  Stir in the paprika, taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.  Let the ketchup cool and remove the spice bundle.  Pour into a jar and chill for at least 6 hours.

(adapted from Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It  by Karen Solomon)

5 cups (1 pound 11 oz) organic flour ( I used whole wheat and unbleached)
5 tsp active dry yeast
2 Tbsp local honey
1 Tbsp sea salt
2 Tbsp organic butter
1 cup organic whole milk
1 cup water

Method:  Pour the water and milk into a saucepan over the stove and warm until you can stick your finger into it without burning it.  Then pour it into a large, warmed bowl.  Stir in the honey and yeast.  Let stand 10 minutes until the yeast is completely dissolved and foamy.  Stir in the salt and butter.  When butter has melted,  add the flour, a few cups at a time, stirring until all the flour is absorbed 

Knead the dough by hand: Scrape the dough onto a well floured surface, sprinkle it with flour and knead it. Gather the dough together in your hands and push it away from you with your palms. Fold it in half towards you, then turn and turn and repeat pushing, folding, and turning, sprinkling a little flour if necessary on the dough to keep it from sticking. Keep kneading for several minutes, until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
After kneading, put the dough in a large oiled bowl, and flip to coat both sides with oil.  Cover the bowl with a round plate, and place in a warm place (near a woodstove or in a gas oven that has a pilot light).  Let it rise for 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled. Punch the dough down to remove air bubbles, then roll the dough into a ball.  Stick your finger directly in the centre to make a small hole.  Use your fingers to widen the hole and work the dough, hand over hand as if you're pulling on a rope, into a large O-shape about 2 inches thick.  Cut the rope in half, then cut each half in half again, you will have 4 equal parts.  Cut each piece into thirds, resulting in 12 pieces total.  
     Keep the dough pieces covered in the bowl while you work.  One at a time, roll each piece into a ball.  For burger buns, press down on the dough ball to flatten its bottom.  For hot dog buns, pinch, stretch, and shape the dough into 7" long rolls.  Transfer the buns to greased baking sheets as your form them.  Let the dough rest on the sheets for 30 minutes, ensuring you cover them with floured dish towels.
     Preheat the oven to 400*.  Brush the tops of the buns with milk, place both sheets in the oven, and bake for 10 minutes.  Rotate each baking sheet 90* and switch racks (so that the top sheet moves to the lower rack and vice versa).  Bake for 10 minutes more, or until the tops are golden brown.  Let cool before serving.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


After a very wet spring, I've been savouring each and every day of sunshine that has come our way.  The apple trees have blossomed, and now we watch and wait for the apples to grow.  The vegetable garden is full of greens in various stages of growth.  Scott has staggered the planting of salad greens and it is a delight to harvest fresh leaves each afternoon for our supper.  I pick from the larger plants, and watch the younger plants grow bigger each day.  As always, the arugula grew quickly and in abundance, and is now going to seed.  No wonder it's other name is rocket, that stuff shoots out of the ground and reproduces in a very short time.  
     Thank goodness our garlic plants have sprouted their scapes, because locally grown garlic is very hard to come by these days, and I can't live without garlic in my food.  They tasted very delicious in the garlic butter I drizzled on baby new potatoes at supper tonight. 
     As I was gathering fresh oregano for our chicken marinade, I harvested an extra bouquet of it for drying.  I can't believe how tall the oregano plants are this year!  To my surprise, I also discovered that my chamomile plants from last year must have self seeded, because my herb garden is full of lovely chamomile blossoms.  I am harvesting some of those for drying as well.  The bunches of herbs look so charming hanging in the most unexpected places in our kitchen.

I kept thinking I would wait until we had some guests over to use the nasturtium blossoms in a salad, but then I realized tonight was as a good at time as any.  They are in radiant full bloom in the garden.  The bees and butterflies are in abundance right now as well, dancing amongst the flowers.  The herb garden is so beautiful, a symphony of healing goodness.  I can't wait to get in there and do some serious weeding.  I'm not sure why, but the clover really seems to like the soil in the herb garden and are becoming a bit of an herbal threat. 
     I've also been having a lot of fun making frozen summertime treats for Faegan (oh let's be honest, I eat just as many of them as he does!)  I came across a really delicious recipe for Banana Cream Pops in a cookbook I took out of the library called Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It by Karen Solomon.  I adapted it a bit to omit the refined sugar and cumin!, (which I replaced with coconut sugar and cardamom) and we've been eating them non-stop all week.  I had to make an emergency trip to the supermarket to pick up some more bananas for another batch.  I am currently using some Baby Cubes with wooden popsicle sticks for molds, but certainly intend to invest in some stainless steel popsicle molds in the very near future.  I am also experimenting with Fudgsicles, which I have yet to perfect, but am enjoying nonetheless.  I will wait until they are awesome to share the results with you.  I hear that freezing pudding makes tasty treats, so I am going to try that next....


4 very ripe organic bananas
1 cup organic plain yogurt ( I was so excited to use our very own raw organic goat milk yogurt!)
1/2 tsp organic ground cardamom
1 tsp organic ground cinnamon
1 tsp pure organic vanilla extract
1/4 cup local honey
1/2 cup organic coconut sugar
pinch of sea salt

Method:  Combine all ingredients in a blender then pour into molds.  Freeze for at least 6 hours before serving.